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An Interview with Author Kirt Hickman

Kirt Hickman is a technical writer turned award-winning fiction/nonfiction author. His works include two speculative fiction series (the science fiction thrillers of Worlds Asunder and the Age of Prophecy fantasy novels) and the how-to writer’s guide Revising Fiction: Making Sense of the Madness. Kirt’s latest release is Assassins’ Prey (February 2021), the second novel in the Age of Prophecy series. You’ll find him on his Amazon Author page.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Assassins’ Prey?
Assassins’ Prey is the second book of the Age of Prophecy fantasy trilogy, which tells the story of a young farmer who sets out amid deception and betrayal to stop the fulfillment of a prophecy that promises to plunge all of the Civilized Lands into an age of darkness. Readers should read Book I, Fabler’s Legend, before reading Assassins’ Prey.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The Age of Prophecy trilogy is the product of a fantasy roll-playing campaign. All of the main characters were created and played by real people. This takes the control of the storyline out of the hands of the author and puts it into the hands of the players. As a result, the story is more rich and intricate than it might have been otherwise, but developing a story that will sell as a series of fiction novels in this manner requires a lot of trimming and shaping of the plot after the gaming campaign is over.

From an awards standpoint, Assassins’ Prey is the middle book of a trilogy, so contest judges have neither the beginning nor the end of the story. That makes it more difficult for me to win an award for the book. Nevertheless, Assassins’ Prey was a finalist in the 2021 NM/AZ Book Awards.

Who are your main characters, and why will readers connect with them?
My main characters (largely an ensemble cast) include a young farmer, a former constable, a handicapped half-elf, an ice wizard, a demon-hunting priest, and a half-demon monk. As extraordinary as some of these characters are, my readers will relate to them because they (like, we) struggle to overcome their own unique fears and weaknesses, priorities and moral sensibilities, and personality conflicts while pursuing their common goal.

How did the book come together?
The inspiration for this project was the fantasy series written by RA Salvatore, which takes place in a world that he shares with the Forgotten Realms fantasy game series. The books read as though they were developed as part of a roll-playing campaign (though I don’t think any of them were actually created in that way). From his inspiration, however, I decided to create a unique world of my own and host a game campaign to develop the storyline for the trilogy.

It took about a year and a half of roll playing to play out the story in each of the three books (so four and a half years total). Then I spent another two years banging the first book into shape. So Fabler’s Legend took over six years to write. Assassins’ Prey has been a long time coming because my life was interrupted by a couple of crises that kept me away from my writing for a few years after the release of Fabler’s Legend.

What was the most difficult aspect of world building for this book?
The physical world (i.e. the geography) was pretty easy to build. I knew what elements I wanted the world to have, but I didn’t want to generate an entire world map detail by detail, so I used a computer gaming program to generate the map randomly. I thought I would need to generate many random maps before I got one with all of the elements that I was looking for, but a suitable world popped out on the first go-round.

From there I had to develop the structure of each of my kingdoms (race, politics, economy, etc.). This was probably the most difficult part, because I wanted several diverse kingdoms. But even these were largely determined by the geography of each region. The area with the densest mountains went to the dwarves, the large green swath went to the elves, fertile regions for kingdoms with agricultural economies, etc.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go, and when did you know it was ready for publishing?
My writers’ guide, Revising Fiction, describes my writing process. I follow it exactly, step by step. One of the advantages of Revising Fiction, and the writing process that it describes, is that it has an end. When I reached the end of the process, I knew the manuscript was as good as it could be. I could have continued tinkering with it, I suppose, but any improvements at that point would have been marginal at best.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Playing the game was a lot of fun. As far as the writing process goes, I always enjoy the editing more than I enjoy writing first draft. My first drafts are always pretty atrocious. Editing, on the other hand, provides instant gratification—I can watch the book improve, right before my eyes.

Of all the books you’ve written — Worlds Asunder sci-fi series, Age of Prophecy fantasy series, the nonfiction how-to Revising Fiction, and several children’s books — which one was the most challenging, and which was the easiest (or most enjoyable) to write?
Each series has its own challenges. Revising Fiction was the easiest to get onto paper. I already had the writing process figured out. It took me only nineteen days to put it onto paper in book form. Then I just had to scour my writing sources for examples to illustrate each point. The Worlds Asunder series has been the biggest challenge, I guess, because I’ve had to come up with six novel-length fiction stories from scratch, some of which aren’t actually written yet.

What do many beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
I see the same types of problems over and over again in novels that I critique for beginning writers. These problems fall into two categories: the story and the writing, both of which are critical to a book’s success.

The story must make sense, particularly the actions of the characters and the motivations that drive those actions. The story must be clear, consistent, and cohesive.

Writing is a craft that must be developed. You can’t just type words that describe the events and expect the narrative to be engaging. I get a lot of manuscripts that are rife with passive voice, emotions that are told rather than shown, characters and settings that lack detail and specificity, and large informational sidebars just dumped onto the page. Writing must be polished to be engaging.

If the stars aligned, what past or present television or movie series would you love to write for (or be involved with in any capacity)?
In terms of TV shows and movies, I certainly have my favorites (among them are Star Trek and just about anything produced by Joss Whedon), but I don’t really have much of an interest in working in film. The workload and pace of such projects requires far more time and commitment than I’m willing to give at this point in my life—it would take the fun out of it. Of course, if someone wanted to produce a series or feature film from my own novels, I might be persuaded to reconsider. J

You have years of experience as a technical writer. How has that experience benefited your fiction writing?
My years in engineering enabled me to develop the start-to-finish process that I now use for everything I write. Without that, I’d still be staring at the first draft of my initial manuscript, wondering what to do with it.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I wish I’d had a better understanding of the time commitment required for the marketing aspects of the job. If you want your book to be successful, you have to take the time to market it. This is true whether you’re traditionally published or self-published.

What are the key issues in writing a series to keep readers coming back for more?
Tell a good story through the eyes of unique, interesting, and believable characters.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Host of Evil, the final book of the Age of Prophecy series.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

2021 New Releases for SWW Authors #1

Joseph Badal, Kirt Hickman, Shirley Raye Redmond, and the writing team of Sandi Hoover and Jim Tritten represent the diverse membership of SouthWest Writers (SWW) with books published in a variety of genres in 2021. Their new releases couldn’t fit in this year’s interview schedule, but look for interviews/updates for most of these authors in 2022.

A list of interviewed SWW authors with 2021 releases is included at the end of this post.

Joseph Badal’s newest release, The Carnevale Conspiracy (Suspense Publishing, July 2021), is the seventh installment in his Danforth Saga. Bob and Liz Danforth are on the vacation of a lifetime—Venice, Italy during Carnevale. But, when they are caught up in the diabolical actions of a secret organization, patterned after the 11th Century’s Hashashiyan, or Order of Assassins, their trip becomes a nightmare of herculean proportion. The Carnevale Conspiracy is an epic tale that brings together international intelligence agencies; a cadre of assassins inspired by a 900-year-old sect and their leader, the Old Man of the Mountain; a global assassination campaign that targets Western leaders; an intrepid MOSSAD agent; and a cast of heroic characters and evil traitors.

You’ll find all of Joe’s books on his Amazon author page.

Assassins’ Prey (February 2021) is book two in Kirt Hickman’s Age of Prophecy series. The great seer Ageus Mortaan foretold the coming of the Age of Darkness, the rise to power of the forces of evil, and the extermination of the civilized races: humans, elves, and dwarves. As the Age of Prophecy saga continues, Nick Mirrin and his friends escape the clutches of the king of Trondor. Together they flee into the uncharted expanse of the Wild Lands, seeking a talisman that will enable them to stand against the Dark Master of Mortaan’s Prophecy. Every step of the way, they’re pursued by: the Chosen of the Master; mercenaries hired by the king; their old nemeses, the Black Hand bandits; and demons specifically designed to be relentless hunters and extraordinary assassins. Nick’s hopes give way to doubt and his gambits become ever more desperate as he and his friends become assassins’ prey.

Visit Kirt’s Amazon author page for all of his books.

In 2021, award-winning author Shirley Raye Redmond published three children’s books in the Read-It! Readers series through Picture Window Books. In Pup’s Prairie Home, Pup doesn’t want to live in a prairie dog hole anymore. It’s deep and dark. Will a hungry, screeching hawk change his mind? In The Princesses’ Lucky Day, Princess May and Princess June are on a hunt for something special. Will they get lucky and find what they are looking for? And in The Princess and Her Pony, it is race day, and little Princess Shy and her tiny pony, Star, are ready to go. The other princesses laugh, but Shy and Star have a plan. Can they win the big race?

You’ll find Shirley Raye on her Amazon author page.

Sandi Hoover and Jim Tritten published their sixth collaboration, Panama’s Gold: A Tale of Greed (Red Penguin Books), in August 2021. Chinese gangs are running investments and infrastructure development in Panama. Lanny Mitchell, a youthfully-retired American environmental lawyer as the antagonist, revisits Panama, to test her idea of becoming a resident ex-pat. She unexpectedly encounters ecological issues and the activities of the gangs. A dormant volcano leaks poisonous gases that kill local fowl and threatens humans. Spanish gold and artifacts are linked to events while the Panama Canal was being excavated with hints at government coverups explaining Yellow Fever that caused massive deaths during construction. Chinese attempts to capitalize on the opportunity to corner the world rare-earth market are thwarted by Lanny and local Panamanians. They want Panama to retain its ownership of the valuable rare-earth and Spanish gold.

Visit Sandi’s Amazon author page and Jim’s Amazon author page.

SWW Author Interviews: 2021 Releases

Jeffrey Candelaria
TORO: The Naked Bull
Marty Eberhardt
Death in a Desert Garden
Melody Groves
When Outlaws Wore Badges
Holly Harrison
Rites & Wrongs
Robert Kidera
BR Kingsolver
Soul Harvest
Marcia Meier
Face, A Memoir
Victoria Murata
The Acolyte
Barb Simmons
The War Within: A Wounded Warrior Romance
Gina Troisi
The Angle of Flickering Light

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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